PORT ELIZABETH, June 21 – Chile continued their dream World Cup run with a 1-0 defeat of 10-man Switzerland here on Monday to move within touching distance of the last 16.The South Americans climbed to the top of Group H after second half substitute Mark Gonzalez finally broke down a steely Swiss defence in the 75th minute.
Chile, who had beaten Honduras 1-0 last week, will be assured qualification if Monday’s late game between Spain and Honduras ends in a draw.
Switzerland, stunning 1-0 winners over favourites Spain in their first match, were up against it after going a man down on 30 minutes when Valon Behrami was sent off.
The West Ham midfielder was given his marching orders by Saudi Arabian referee Khalil Al Ghamdi for a tangle with Arturo Vidal after he appeared to elbow the Bayer Leverkusen player in the face.
Chile, who had impressed with their attacking passion in their opening 1-0 win over Honduras, had the first shot on target when Italy-based Carlos Carmona fired in from 20m, the ball safely scooped up by Swiss keeper Diego Benaglio.
Carmona then ensured he would miss Chile’s closing Group H match with Spain on Friday by picking up a yellow card for a challenge on Behrami in the 21st minute to add to the one he received last week.
Four minutes before the interval Swiss coach Ottmar Hitzfeld made a tactical switch, pulling off striker Alexander Frei and replacing the team captain with Bayer Leverkusen midfielder Tranquillo Barnetta.
After the break Chile’s Argentinian coach Marcelo Bielsa replaced midfielder Vidal with Gonzalez, the CSKA Moscow striker.
Alexis Sanchez thought he had scored in the 49th minute, celebrating ecstatically only to then see out of the corner of his eye the linesman’s flag raised for offside.
The Swiss were having to defend with a capital D against a country that had only come in one point behind Brazil in qualifying.
It was all Chile now as the ball rarely left the Swiss side of the Nelson Mandela Bay pitch.
On 55 minutes the Europeans were let off when Gonzalez jumped over the white wall only to head a corner high.
Trigger happy Al Ghamdi then dished out three yellow cards in the space of one minute to Swiss defender Reto Ziegler and Chilean duo Gary Medel and Matias Fernandez to take the tally to eight with one red and still 20 minutes on the clock.
Chile finally made the breakthrough they had been threatening for so long when Esteban Paredes, who had only entered the fray 10 minutes earlier as a replacement for Matias Fernandez, raced around Benaglio and found Gonzalez who headed into an empty goal.
Switzerland almost grabbed an unlikely last minute equaliser when substitute Eren Derdiyok shot just wide of Bravo’s left post.
Small consolation but the Swiss set a new World Cup record of 559 minutes played without scoring a goal, to overtake Italy’s mark of 550 minutes.